History Column

History, History Column

A Mixed History of Alcohol and Alexandria

by ©2022 Sarah Becker How do lawyers and historians pass their respective bar exams?  Lawyers mostly study hard. Spirited historians sip booze. The American Whiskey Trail, championed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States includes both distilleries and historic sites, sites such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon distillery and Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. GW’s favorite alcohol drinks: sweet, fortified wines like Madeira and Port; rum punch, and porter [dark beer]. Reconstructed as of 2007 Mount Vernon’s “whiski distillery” was originally built in 1797: the same year John Adams succeeded George Washington as President. Two years later the distillery was one of the country’s largest 18th century facilities, producing approximately 11,000 gallons of whiskey annually. Whiskey sold for $.50 a gallon and a federal Excise Whiskey Tax was due. The 1791 tax was used “to offset a portion of the federal government’s assumption of state debts.” Mount Vernon’s distillery was a spinoff—born of Washington’s want “to simplify his farming operations.” It generated a substantial profit, thanks mostly to the efforts of Scottish farm manager James Anderson. The Estate produced ample grain; the gristmill and water system were previously installed, and enslaved labor was cheap. Better still, the remaining slop—distilled grain—was recyclable. The distillery was home to 150 pigs and 30 cows. The “demand,” Washington wrote, was “brisk.” Alexandria merchant and leading surveyor George Gilpin was among the distillery’s earliest customers. The un-aged whiskey was made from 60% rye, 35% corn, and 5% malted barley. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health 85.6% of Americans ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 69.5% reported that they drank in the past year. The top alcohol drinks, in descending order: 12-oz. of regular beer, 1½-oz. of distilled spirits, and 5-oz. of…

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A Brief History of Guns, Politics and the NRA

by ©2022 Sarah Becker “We’ve all seen how quickly and creatively Texas can act when it wants to protect the unborn embryo,” CNN Anchor Alisyn Camerota said on May 25, 2022. “Why not act with that alacrity to protect a living, breathing 10-year old child?” Camerota was referring to Uvalde’s Robb Elementary mass shooting. Nineteen school children and two teachers were killed; 17 others were wounded. More than 311,000 students have experienced a school shooting since 1999. A mass shooting is defined as “a gun crime in which four or more people excluding the shooter are killed.” Should returning students learn the particulars of school safety? Absolutely, including vocabulary words like shots fired, active shooter, dangerous someone; inform, counter, and evacuate. On May 24, 2022, children were confined to two Robb Elementary classrooms; held at gunpoint, either dead or pretending death while calling #911 for help. The deceased gunman, age 18, purchased his AR-15 assault style semiautomatic rifle, a rifle akin to the military’s automatic M-16, one day after his May 17 birthday. Texas makes it easy to buy and carry guns. Why, the gun lobby is famous for its generosity. “Gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America spent $15.8 million—a record amount—on lobbying in 2021,” Open Secrets explained. “Senator Ted Cruz [R-TX] has received more funding…than any other politician since 2012.” According to Brady United the NRA’s top career grossing Senators are, in descending order: Mitt Romney (R-UT) #1@$13,647,676, Richard Burr (R-NC) #2, Roy Blunt (R-MO) #3, Thom Tillis (R-NC) #4, Marco Rubio (R-FL) #5@$3,303,355, Joni Ernst (R-IA) #6, Rob Portman (R-OH) #7, Todd Young (R-IN) #8, Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) #9, Tom Cotton (R-AR) #10@$1,971,214, Pat Toomey (R-PA) #11, Josh Hawley (R-MO) #12, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) #13, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) #14@$1,283,515,…

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Women’s Equality Day, 2022? Yeah, right.

by ©2022 Sarah Becker “Abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote in February 2022. “For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each State was permitted to address the issue in accordance with the views of its citizens. Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113.” Moral, as defined by the American Heritage dictionary: “Of or concerned with the judgment or instruction of goodness or badness of character and behavior.  Morals: “Rules or habits of conduct, esp. of sexual conduct.” In America such rules are grounded in religion, a political mix of religions and Sir William Blackstone’s 1765 Commentaries of the Laws of England—the Law of Coverture. Today’s politicians mostly favor the moral opinions of those affiliated with the Christian right: Evangelical Protestants, Conservative Catholics, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Also: The Federalist Society [est. 1982], Evangelical Protestant Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law & Justice [est. 1990], and Rachel MacNair’s Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America 501(c)4 & PAC [est. 1992]. Pat Robertson, a Virginia Republican is Southern Baptist. In 2016 Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network professed “Christianity is where the power is. There is no separation of church and state.” Amendment 1 of the Constitution’s 1791 Bill of Rights is called the Establishment Clause. It “build[s] a wall of separation between Church & State, adhering to…the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience,” President Thomas Jefferson [DR-VA] told the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. In 1776 Abigail Adams asked husband John to Remember the Laidies [sic] when making the colonies “new code of laws.” She did not want “unlimited power put into the hands of the Husbands.” “Men of…

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Fourth of July – Emerson, Stabler & Zelenskyy

By Sarah Becker ©2022 Copyright ©2022 Sarah Becker In 1837 Michigan was admitted as a free state, the Union’s 26th state. Texas, a slave-holding republic was denied annexation. The Panic of 1837 began: banks failed, a depression followed, and the price of cotton plummeted. Lawyer Abraham Lincoln was admitted to the Illinois Bar, Martin Van Buren [D-NY] became the 8th U.S. President, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson celebrated his Hymn: Sung at the July 4th Completion of the Concord, Massachusetts, Monument. The Monument immortalizes Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the settlers April 19, 1775, resistance to oncoming British forces. The fighting covered 16 miles and included 4,000+ colonials: 1,700 British regulars. Concord, a Puritan settlement established in 1635, was the first Massachusetts community to protest Parliament’s March 31, 1774, Coercive Acts. Independence Day, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “July 4, celebrated in the United States to commemorate the adoption in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence. “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them…. [W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security….” Independent, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “Not governed by a foreign power.” “By the rude bridge that arched the flood,/ Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,/ Here once the embattled farmers stood,/ And fired the shot heard round the world,” Emerson’s Hymn begins. “The foe long since in…

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Democratic Convention of 1924

By ©2022 Sarah Becker In 1924 Congress overrode President Calvin Coolidge’s veto of the WWI Soldiers Bonus Bill, and an anti-Asiatic Immigration law was passed. A constitutional amendment “to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age” was sent to the states for ratification. The country, “led by the South, [was] reluctant to circumscribe the work done by child labor.” 1924 was also a presidential election year. Four political parties participated. The Republican Party nominated Vice President Calvin Coolidge, President as of 1923 to serve another term. The Democrats chose New York attorney John W. Davis. It took the Dems a record 103 ballots to decide. Virginia’s 1924 Democratic Convention delegation included U.S. Senator Carter Glass; U.S. Senator Claude A. Swanson and State Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., Chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party; Governor E. Lee Trinkle and former Governor Henry C. Stuart; Mrs. B.B. Mumford, Mrs. W.B. Sirman, and Alexandria’s Dr. Kate Waller Barrett. They were “to support Glass for the presidential nomination so as long as his name was before the body.” “Anyone who would not expect me to lead—to impress upon Congress my conception of important matters—need never to advocate me for this presidency,” Glass said in reply. Representative Glass was instrumental in the passage of the 1913 Owen-Glass Federal Reserve Act: the formation of the central bank of the United States. “Four years ago [in 1920] Virginia furnished the platform for the [National] Democratic Party,” The Richmond-Times Dispatch reported. “This year it will, in all probability, go-a-step farther, providing both the platform and the candidate. The name Carter Glass is on the lips of every man or woman who discusses nomination possibilities.” “It is admitted on all sides that, in point of ability and general fitness…no man in American public…

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Historic Anomaly: Benjamin Banneker 1731 – 1806

by ©2022 Sarah Becker Baltimore, 1791: “The Editors of the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia ALMANACK, feel themselves gratified in the Opportunity of presenting to the Public, through the Medium of their Press, what must be considered an extraordinary Effort of Genius—a complete and accurate EPHEMERIS for the Year 1792, calculated by a sable Descendant of Africa, who, by the Specimen of Ingenuity, evinces, to Demonstration, that mental Powers and Endowments, are not the exclusive Excellence of white People, but that rays of Science may alike illumine the Minds of Men of every Clime, (however they may differ in the Colour of their Skin).” Benjamin Banneker, America’s first Black man of Science compiled The ALMANACK in the 1790s. Banneker was born in Baltimore County, Maryland—a slave state—on November 9, 1731: of a free mother and formerly enslaved father. He grew up free on the family’s multi-acre tobacco farm and briefly attended a Quaker school. “Benjamin Banneker’s place, as a self-educated master of mathematics and astronomy, makes him an ideal subject for African-American history,” Maryland’s Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum said. “Benjamin Banneker, a free Negro, has calculated an Almanack, to the ensuing year, 1792, which being desirous to dispose of to the best advantage, he has requested me to aid his application to you,” Baltimore’s James McHenry wrote Editors Goddard and Angell on August 26, 1791. “Having fully satisfied myself…I may venture to assure you it will do you credit as Editors. McHenry, a military surgeon, was white; a Founding Father and signer of the 1787 Constitution between the States. “He is about fifty-nine years of age,” McHenry continued. “His father and mother having obtained their freedom, were enabled to send him to an obscure school, where he learned, when a boy reading, writing; and to leave him in…

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Taking Care of Mother Earth

by ©2022 Sarah Becker The amount of future warming Earth will experience depends on how much carbon dioxide [CO2] and other greenhouse gases [GHG] we humans emit in the coming decades. GHG are any of the gaseous components that trap heat in the atmosphere. The most abundant greenhouse gas, CO2 is the product of burning fossil fuels [coal, natural gas and oil; solid waste and trees, and chemical reactions like with cement]. In 2019 carbon dioxide accounted for 80% of U.S. greenhouse gases, methane 10%. “There is no good reason why we should fear the future,” President and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt [R-NY] said in 1905, “but there is every reason why we should face it seriously, neither hiding from ourselves the gravity of the problems before us nor fearing to approach these problems with the unbending, unflinching purpose to solve them aright.” Today’s U.S. Western mega- drought is “the worst in 1200 years.” Earth Day was first celebrated 52 years ago—on April 22. Why, to advocate on behalf of environmentalism. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, crippling drought, and more powerful storms,” President Barack Obama [D-IL] said in his 2013 Inaugural Address. “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be…difficult,” Obama continued. “But Americans cannot resist this transition…We cannot cede to the other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries.” Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Catalyst is investing $1.5b in clean technology projects including direct air capture, green hydrogen, long-duration energy storage, and sustainable aviation fuel. “Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods,” the Earth Day website insists. “We need to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). It’s going to take all…

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Virginia Fitzhugh Wheat Thomas and Colored Rosemont       

Written by ©2022 Sarah Becker “The idea of slavery being connected with the Black Colour, and Liberty with the White, where false Ideas are twisted into our Minds, it is with difficulty we get fairly disentangled,” New Jersey Quaker John Woolman [1720-1772] wrote. The time has come to articulate a historical truth, to acknowledge a woman black Alexandria homeowner Stanley Greene describes as “an abolitionist-minded angel.” March is Women’s History Month: her name is Virginia Fitzhugh Wheat Thomas (1893-1987). A descendant of William Fitzhugh The Immigrant [1651-1701]; an indirect descendant of The Immigrant’s great grandson William Fitzhugh of Chatham [1741-1809]; his son William Henry Fitzhugh [1792-1830] of Ravensworth and Alexandria; granddaughter of Benoni [1823-1902] and Matilda Taliaferro Fitzhugh Wheat [1831-1885], daughter of Wheat & Suter real estate developer Harrie Fitzhugh [1866-1912] and Kate Duncan Houck Wheat [1869-1899]. Virginia was an inspired realtor whose post-World War interpretation of home ownership contributed to the construction of Alexandria’s Colored Rosemont. “The verdict of our voters…enjoins upon the people’s servants the duty of exposing and destroying the brood of kindred evils which are the wholesome progeny of paternalism,” President Grover Cleveland [D-NY] said in Virginia Fitzhugh Wheat’s birth year, in his 1893 Inaugural Address. “If in lifting burdens from the daily life of our people we reduce inordinate and unequal advantages too long ignored, this is but a necessary incident of our return to right and justice.” On May 18, 1896—the same year the National Association of Colored Women formed—the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches…shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races.” [Plessy v. Ferguson 163U.S.537 (1896)] Soon after, the Reconstruction-era “Colored Republicans…served notice.” The lily-whites reply: rewrite Virginia’s constitution. The Commonwealth’s new constitution became final in 1902, Benoni Wheat’s death year….

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”Secession is Nothing But Revolution” – Lee Surrenders

by ©2022 Sarah Becker On April 1, 1865, Union General Philip H. Sheridan, in the last important battle of the Civil War, crushed a Confederate assault at Five Forks, Virginia. The Confederate army withdrew from Petersburg the next day. On April 3 Union troops entered Petersburg and Richmond—the Confederate capital—and the South’s War of Northern Aggression, America’s Civil War came to an end. President Abraham Lincoln [R-IL] arrived in Richmond on April 5 and settled into Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ chair. “The South, in my opinion, has been aggrieved by the acts of the North,” Confederate General Robert E. Lee told Confederate General A.L. King in his Memoirs of Robert E. Lee. “I feel the aggression and am willing to take every proper step for redress. It is the principle I contend for, not individual or private benefit. As an American citizen I take great pride in my country, her prosperity, and her institutions, and would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complained of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is resort to force.” “Secession is nothing but revolution,” Lee continued. “The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for ‘perpetual union,’ so expressed in the preamble.” Lee was the son of Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee. Union General Ulysses S. Grant called for Lee’s surrender on…

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January 6th – One Year Later…..

Written by ©2021 Sarah Becker Copyright ©2021 Sarah Becker January 6th – One Year Later….. “A nation’s character, like that of an individual, is elusive,” World War II Navy and Marine Medal recipient John F. Kennedy professed in 1946. “It is produced partly by the things we have done and partly by what has been done to us. It is the result of physical factors, intellectual factors, and spiritual factors. It is well for us to consider our American character, for in peace, as in war, we will survive or fail according to the measure.”  So the 2022 New Year begins. “Acquiring the qualities of virtue requires consistent effort,” Benjamin Franklin observed. “Pleasure, position, popularity, wealth and appearance are among the whistles in life…for which many people pay too much.” Franklin considered character and integrity to be one. And so the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th [2021] Attack on the United States Capitol continues. “Almost all the literature in the first 150 years or so focused on what could be called the Character Ethic…things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule,” Stephen Covey author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People wrote. Matthew 7:9-12, NIV Archaeological Study Bible: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him? So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” “Shortly after WWI the basic view shifted from the Character…

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